Like you've already found out, most horses that are part of a trail string are really good natured and gentle, but the only real training they ever get is to follow the tail of the horse in front of them.
It will take some time, but it shouldn't be too hard to re-train her into a very nice lesson horse. She's already got the great temperament, so it should be relatively uneventful training. Just start her over as if she'd never been rode...only without the fear of "OMG, is she going to buck or bolt when I climb in the saddle".
What smrobs said. My appy was a trail string horse, and he has been making progress with being retrained to think a bit for himself. Calm as the day is long but in the beginning stubborn and sour to the aids from years of ignoring the person on his back LOL.
I agree. I've actually dealt with two horses like this in the past. One was 16 when we got him but very willing and gentle. His biggest issue was loping as he had never done much of it where he'd come from but with consistent riding he compeltely turned around into one of the best beginner trail horses.
The other one was a bit more of a challenge. He caught onto steering right away but hated being in front or away from the other horses and would buck when you asked him to run. This was because he had never had his riders really tell him to do anything. It was just aim in a direction and follow the other horse so when I started "bossing him around" he wasn't very pleased.
These will be the main things to work on: steering, go, and willingness, especially away from home & other horses.
If the horse is of a good mind it should not be hard ;)
As already said, she will be gentle and good natured but will not know how to 'follow her nose' or move off of a leg.
We have re-trained many of them and start out on a very loose rein teaching basic leg-yielding exercises combined with circles and serpentines. It does not take them very long.
You will have the most trouble getting her to move up into the bridle and work on contact. We have found that it works best to teach guiding and leg yielding first. After a horse guides nice enough at the walk, slow trot and canter, makes decent circles and serpentines and has the basics of leg-yielding, finally start doing all of this with a gradual contact. If you try to get them to accept contact too early, they just get frustrated and stop.
I agree. I've actually dealt with two horses like this in the past. One was 16 when we got him but very willing and gentle. His biggest issue was loping as he had never done much of it where he'd come from
Same thing with my appy. A very new horse person bought him before me and when he would be asked to canter he did a lil hop-skip and threw himself into the gait because he hadn't ever done it with a rider. She insisted he was bucking and basically walked away from him and left him in a dry lot for a year before we bought him. He is just now learning to balance himself in the round pen at the canter, I hope to ride him in the big arena at the as soon as I am sure he won't fall (literally) to the inside on the corners
I have a good friend who outfits a lot of "dude strings" he has over 120 head of horses, the majority of which are leased out to ski resorts in the summer to pack around new riders. After he leases them for a few years he retires them, I can often pick them up for very cheap. I love these horses, they already have a lot of miles on them in unfamiliar territory. They have an incredible nature, and it takes very little to bring the life back up in them. Most of these types of horses I have found have a nature that is the type that is "aiming to please" I agree with smrobs, except for you don't need to start over from the beginning. They generally have great ground manners, they can stand to be tied for hours. Instead put a saddle on and bring the life back into them. And I am not talking about kicking and spurring them...
So today,the trail horse started her training. The trainer had one of her students lunge her in full tack. She had the lunge line though the bit and up and over the other side and clip to the bit . She lunged her for a few mins. Then the trainer came down to the ring and fixed the lunge line. She put it over her nose. She said the horse wasnt ready for the lunge line to be over her head. (?)
so the trainer lunges her for a few mins. Then the student gets on the horse and she lunges her some more. So they are trotting around and aroun on the lunge for a while.
Im riding my horse and watching them ride. When she was done trotting..she got to walk the horse on the top 3rd of the arena. Then she got off and took her to the barn.
So I guess that's how the training is going to for this pretty mare.
Good luck! And yes string horses are very kind. I have trained one. Im surprised she doesnt know how to turn. My boss tells me to have them GOOODD neck reined.. But then again.. no leg pressure.. and no backing up.. so.. I wish you the best of luck!